Hearthside Families

Hearthside Families

Calling Hearthside Their Home

Eleven families called Hearthside their home over its 200 year history. Its’ owners have included a candle and soap maker, a lawyer, a horse breeder, several farmers, a real estate developer, a merchant, a coal and lumber dealer, a mill owner, a printer, and a publisher. The house got its name from “The Hearthside Looms,” a renowned hand weaving business that was operated by the Talbot family in the early part of the 20th century. The last residents was the Mowbray family, who enjoyed 40 years in this beautiful house before selling it to the Town of Lincoln in 1996 to ensure its preservation. Each family has added their own story to the history of this magnificent house, a history integral to that of the Great Road Historic District, the town of Lincoln, the state of Rhode Island, and the Blackstone River Valley.

Stephen Hopkins Smith

Stephen Hopkins Smith, only in his 20’s when he built Hearthside, was one of 11 children born to Benjamin and Mary Tillinghast Smith. The Smith’s, who were Quakers and farmers, lived in a stone-ender house on 249 acres surrounding the area where Hearthside was eventually built. Stephen’s grandmother, Anne Smith, was the granddaughter of John Smith, the miller, one of five who crossed the Seekonk River with Roger Williams on his first landing in Providence. Following the death of her husband, Anne became the second wife of Governor Stephen Hopkins in 1755, making Stephen the step-grandson of the Governor. Following his education in Providence, Stephen worked for Edward Carrington, a prominent trade merchant.

While building his mansion across from his childhood home in 1812, Stephen also constructed a stone textile mill and started the Smith Manufacturing Company, later called the Butterfly Mill. His textile business proved unprofitable, however. After his beloved rejected the mansion he had built for her, Stephen moved into a small cottage nearby, while his siblings enjoyed living at Hearthside for many years. When plans emerged to build a 45-mile canal to easily transport goods between Providence to Worcester, Stephen enthusiastically embarked on the Blackstone River Canal project, along with business associates Edward Carrington and Moses Brown Ives. He played a critical role in its development, and served as treasurer of the company. Captain Wilbur Kelly was a cargo consignment agent as well as owner of a small mill located along the Canal, reportedly built of the same stone as Smith’s Hearthside. 

After the Canal closed in 1848, Stephen went on to manage the Hamlet Mill in Woonsocket, a factory owned by Carrington. Stephen had a deep love of nature and devoted his leisure time to studying agriculture and gardening. Many of the exotic trees and shrubs he planted on family land known as “Quinsnicket” still survive in what is now Lincoln Woods State Park. His experiments with fertilizer enriched the soil on his land, including the portion that became Chase Farm. Widely respected in Rhode Island and beyond for his knowledge of agriculture and horticulture, Stephen was an active member of the Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry for many years and in 1854 became founding president of the Rhode Island Horticultural Society.

Smith died in 1857 at the age of 74. An obitiuary in the 1858 Transactions of the Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry reads: “Many men of larger mental development, more honored with office and more favored of fortune than Stephen Hopkins Smith, have gone down to the grave; yet there are few...who could compare with him in warmth and affection, benignity of disposition or genuine goodness of heart.” Stephen Hopkins Smith is buried in the cemetery at the Saylesville Friends Meeting House, the place of his worship, just a short distance away from Hearthside on Great Road.

Simon Eddy Thornton

Simon Eddy Thornton was the owner of Hearthside from 1870 until his death there in 1873. He owned J.S. Thornton and Company, a coal and lumber business. He and his wife, Louisa, had one son, Robert. When Simon died, his funeral was held in his home, as was the practice at that time. Today, Hearthside honors Thornton’s memory with the re-creation of his wake each year as part of its exhibit on Victorian Mourning & Funeral Customs. Interestingly, Simon Thornton’s sister was Alzada Smith Thornton Chase, wife of Benjamin Chase, the original owner of the neighboring Chase Farm...and the great-great-grandfather of Kathy Chase Hartley, the founder of the Friends of Hearthside.

Daniel Meader

Daniel Meader purchased Hearthside in 1890 after he retired from farming. He had owned a farm across town in the village of Albion, where his farmhouse was the subject of an 1886 book, “Three Holes in the Chimney,” by Betsey Ann White. Daniel and Louisa had three sons: Walter, Frank, and William, who accidently drowned at the age of 4. Louisa Meader inherited Hearthside when her husband passed away. She was very active in the church and became president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of Moshassuck and traveled as a delegate to conventions around the world. She was a popular lecturer about her many journeys.

Frederick C. Sayles

Frederick Clark Sayles bought Hearthside in 1901, having purchased the surrounding farmland and the Butterfly Mill several years earlier. Sayles made substantial improvements to the farm, which he named Mariposa (later called the Butterfly Farm). Sayles raised prize-winning coach horses and trotting mares at Mariposa, where he kept what was probably the nation’s finest collection of broodmares at the time. Sayles and his brother William owned the W.F. & F.C. Sayles Bleachery in Lincoln, formerly the Moshassuck Bleachery, the largest and best-equipped establishment of its kind in the world. Frederick Sayles became the first mayor of Pawtucket, R.I. in 1885. The Sayles brothers were generous donors to their community, and the area around the bleachery became known as Saylesville, the village in Lincoln where Hearthside is located. In 1926, after a fire devastated the Chase dairy farm next door, Benjamin E. Chase bought the Sayles farm, naming the combined establishment the Chase & Butterfly Farm.

Arnold Gindrat Talbot

It was the Talbot Family who actually gave the name “Hearthside” to the house in 1904 when Arnold Gindrat Talbot purchased the house as both a home and a site for the family’s hand weaving business known as “The Hearthside Looms.” Together with his wife Katharine, and their two children William and Frances, as well as weavers from Portugal, Talbot created and produced a variety of fabrics using historic patterns, including fine linens, bedspreads, tablecloths, and rugs. Later when machine-made goods resulted in less desire for the higher priced products made by hand, Talbot focused on providing altar cloths and other products for churches throughout the country. In 1907, House Beautiful magazine featured an article on the “Hearthside Looms.” They exhibited regularly at the Decorative Arts Rooms in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Providence. The Talbot products became known as some of the finest in the country, winning numerous awards for their quality and vibrant colors.

The Talbots were not only at the forefront of the Arts & Crafts Movement but also the age of Colonial Revival, as they filled their home with antiques, making Hearthside a “museum” in the early part of the 20th century. One of their heirlooms was a portrait of Silas Talbot, Arnold’s ancestor and a Revolutionary War hero, best known for being commander of the USS Constitution, or “Old Ironsides.” An interesting coincidence is that the Hearthside Looms operated across the street from the Butterfly Mill, the textile mill built a century before by Stephen Hopkins Smith that failed soon after it opened, while the hand weaving industry the mill was supposed to supplant flourished at Hearthside.

E. Andrew Mowbray

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The last family to call Hearthside their home was Andrew and Penelope Mowbray and their three children, Andrew, Sherry and Stuart. The Mowbray's purchased the house and one acre of land in 1956 and lived here for 40 years, longer than any other residents. The family were history buffs and devoted stewards of Hearthside and the surrounding Great Road area. Andrew was responsible for nominating Hearthside for the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. He [Mowbray] was an avid collector, especially of military memorabilia, and his extensive collection of antiques, guns, and swords filled the house, it was also an interest shared by his two sons. Proud of their Scottish heritage, father and sons played bagpipes and drums in the Rhode Island Highlanders Pipe Band for many years.

Andrew Mowbray owned the Mowbray Publishing Company, currently run by his son Stuart. His book, The American Eagle Pommel Sword: The Early Years 1794-1830, showcased his collection and became the authoritative resource among collectors. As town historian, Mowbray oversaw the publication of Once in a Hundred Years, Lincoln’s centennial commemorative book. Mowbray also owned several antique cars, many of them early models of the Rolls Royce, through the years at Hearthside. He appeared with one of the cars in the movie “The Great Gatsby (1974), filmed in Newport, R.I. In 1976, he published The American Rolls-Royce, a comprehensive history of Rolls-Royce of America, Inc. Penelope Mowbray had a home-based business selling Betsy Ross flags and was actively involved in efforts to preserve Great Road’s historic character. To ensure that Hearthside would be protected in the future, the Mowbray family sold the house to the town of Lincoln in 1996 when Andrew passed away.

Timeline of Hearthside Ownership

  • 1810 Stephen Hopkins Smith started building Hearthside in 1810.
  • 1814 George Smith and his sister, Mary Smith, lived at Hearthside from 1814 until 1847.
  • 1847 Cyrus Dyer purchased the house and 41 acres in 1847 for $3,000, and he ran a farm there until 1851.
  • 1851 Sylvester R. Jackson purchased house in 1851 for $4,000. He was a candle and soap maker in Providence.
  • 1853 George L. Barnes purchased Hearthside and 41 acres for $6,500. He was a lawyer and farmer.
  • 1870 Simon E. Thornton purchased the house and 40 acres from Mrs. Eliza Barnes for $10,500.
  • 1873 Robert W. Thornton, a milk farmer, inherited Hearthside from his father. He sold 38 acres of the land in 1889 to Frederick Clark Sayles who named it Mariposa Farm, where he raised a large number of trotting mares and coach horses. 
  • 1890 Daniel Meader, a farmer and real estate developer, purchased Hearthside and 2.58 acres from Robert Thornton.
  • 1901 Frederick Clark Sayles, merchant and mill owner, purchased Hearthside from Mrs. Louisa Meader for $10 to return the package as one (when he died in 1903, the land went into a land holding company---The Oak Hill Land Company)
  • 1903 Arnold Gindrat Talbot purchased Hearthside for $100. Mr. and Mrs. Talbot ran an arts and crafts hand-weaving business known as Hearthside Looms. 
  • 1926 Adam Sutcliffe, owner of a printing business in Pawtucket. 
  • 1956 E. Andrew Mowbray, owner of a publishing business in Providence, lived at Hearthside for 40 years until his death in 1996. He, along with his wife Penelope, and children Drew, Sherry, and Stuart, were the last family to live there. 
  • 1996 Town of Lincoln 
  • 2001 Friends of Hearthside, Inc. formed to serve as stewards
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